A week or two ago I was reading an interview with adorable and smart actress Michelle Williams, whose perfect pixie haircut I have long coveted with the fiery heat of a thousand hot suns, and in the interview, she explained that she keeps her hair short to remember the late Heath Ledger, whom she says was, “…the one straight man who has ever liked short hair.”
Williams elaborated on her signature short haircut, noting that her 5 year old daghter Matilda Ledger wants her mama to grow it out, but that Williams says that in addition to remembering Matilda’s father by keeping it short, she also feels more herself with the close crop. However, she says she’s aware that the haircut isn’t something that potential male romantic partners are likely to go for, saying, “Of course, the only people who like it are gay men and my girlfriends. Straight men across the board are not into this hair!’
I was thinking about that comment from Williams last week as I realized that after having grown my hair out to shoulder length at my husband Jon’s specific request, I am now getting kind of bored with it, and have been thinking of cutting and coloring it in some sort of way that’s more interesting than the dark auburn, shoulder-length layers I am currently sporting.
So on Friday night, while we were sitting together on the couch watching a movie after the kids were in bed, I asked Jon what he would think if I cut my hair shorter again – not really short, necessarily – but shorter than the way it is now. I didn’t know what I was expecting as a response, but I wasn’t expecting what I got, which was for him to sort of stop in his tracks, and give me his full attention as he essentially pleaded with me not to cut my hair any shorter. He went on and on about how much he loves it longer, and how much it means to him that I’ve grown it out, and how beautiful I look with longer hair, etc, etc, etc…
Given the obviously strong feelings he has on the matter, I quickly assured him that for now, I have no intention of going shorter, but his response did prompt me to begin peppering him with follow up questions – annoying queries like these:
“So if you like it so much long now, does that mean you did NOT like it when it was really short?”
“Wait, you always told me that you liked it when I had my hair in a supershort pixie cut, like when we got married. Were you lying just to make me feel better?”
“Are there ANY women with short hair whom you think are pretty? Or do you ONLY find women with longer hair attractive?”
And so on, and so on…
Jon is a smart guy. He always clams up completely when faced with any sort of question falling within the infamous, “Honey, does this make me look fat?” genre, and this was no different. I got absolutely nothing out of him as I tried to get him to spill on the specifics of his feelings about my hair, short hair, long hair, hair-at-wedding, which other women in the world he finds attractive, and so on. However, as I bombarded him with hair questions, I did tell him about the Michelle Williams quote I’d read – the one where she said that only her gay male friends and girlfriends actually like her short haircut. And while Jon wouldn’t answer any of my specific and probing hair questions, he did say that he thinks that Michelle Williams is correct. He told me that while it may not be something that men like to say out loud (particularly directly to their own girlfriends and wives), that in Jon’s opinion, most guys seem to prefer the look of long hair on women.
After this conversation, I did a little Googling about this whole “men prefer long hair” thing to see whether there’s ever been any research to back up this anecdotal observation. First, I ran across this quote from the book, “Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa,”
Men prefer young women in part because they tend to be healthier than older women. One accurate indicator of health is physical attractiveness; another is hair. Healthy women have lustrous, shiny hair, whereas the hair of sickly people loses its luster. Because hair grows slowly, shoulder-length hair reveals several years of a woman’s health status.
Ummm…okay. I’m skeptical of that one.
But anyway, I poked around online some more, and I couldn’t find any actual scientific data proving that men prefer longer hair on potential female partners, although I did run across this unscientific British newspaper poll indicating male preference for long, sexily tousled hair such as one would likely see in the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog. Despite the dearth of available hard data on this topic, I did find a great deal of anecdotal conversation around it, some of which was pretty astonishing. Check out this essay at the site Beyond Jane in which the female writer lamented the one time she cut her hair short, and explained why she prefers it to be long, writing that, “…in today’s society, long hair seems to be a “must”, especially in America. I have never seen a Victoria’s Secret model with short hair. Getting such a drastic haircut, to me, felt like wearing a “breast minimizing” bra without having huge knockers in the first place. “
Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, and I know that there are plenty of men out there who find Mia Farrow circa Rosemary’s Baby or Natalie Portman way more sexually appealing than Scarlett Johansen or Christina Hendricks, and there are certainly guys who prefer the supershort, punky cut that the now long-tressed Angelie Jolie sported before she became internationally famous. But I guess it’s likely true that all things being equal – and even if many of them are loathe to admit it for fear of sounding sexist or shallow- many, if not most straight American men prefer long hair to short on women.
Do you think this is the case? Or are Michelle Williams and I radically oversimplifying? And if you DO believe that most men go for long over short, why do you think this is the case? Is it simple cultural conditioning for American boys? Or does it run deeper, and trace back to some sort of issue of natural selection in which long hair on a woman signified health status, thus making her a more appealing mate? Of course, if that’s the case, then wouldn’t it make sense for most American women to ALSO prefer men with long hair? That’s definitely not the case, so the natural selection theory seems pretty sketchy to me.
What’s the deal with men and long hair? Let’s discuss. (And I’d love it if some of the guys who read my blogging would weigh in on this one.)
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